The piano has been living with a beautiful legacy, but that legacy can double as tyranny. The Steinway Model D, favorite instrument of mine that it is, has also frozen the technological development of the keyboard instrument. And that’s why the Una Corda is different. Built custom by David Klavins, and associated with that builder’s collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, this lightweight piano is unlike any you’ve seen or heard before. And now, you can get a taste of playing the real thing with a software instrument.
There are a lot of hugely powerful things you can do with an environment like Reaktor. But that doesn’t necessarily suggest where to begin. The best way to get into a deep tool is often to solve a simple problem. At the Native Sessions installment on Reaktor 6, Nadine Raihani showed us a simple example of taking a user library offering and making some quick changes. The result: a Euclidean polyrhythm sequencer (Euclidean say what?) that you can play from a keyboard. That turns out to be scary useful: like holding down notes for instant improv techno.
It’s a marvelous time to be a musician. You can imagine a musical instrument, a compositional invention, and then realize that idea in short order. So I was glad to get the chance to emcee an evening of discussion with Reaktor experts, including the folks who built the tool, last month in the software’s hometown Berlin. That discussion ultimately was partly about Reaktor, but partly about the act of instrument building itself – meaning there were insights for anyone interested in working with electronics or software to dream up new musical tools.
It doesn’t have screens. There are no giant wheels or touchstrips. There’s no complex software integration, or built-in mixer, or pads for remixing. But what the DJ4 is is what you might be missing in other DJ controllers. It’s got the controls you need in a tiny, tiny footprint that won’t have you hunting for new luggage or scrambling around a venue to find a bigger table because your gear won’t fit in the booth. (Ahem, yes, you know who you are, giant controllers.) And unlike the increasingly branded, computer-tied world of DJ controllers, this one also works with anything …
Working with samples is great fun, but there’s a certain sameness to approach. Load a sample. Play back a sample. Slice a sample. FLESH takes a unique angle: it analyzes sound samples and mangles them into new animals. And it’s the latest from Tim Exile, a one-man live performer of madness himself (Warp, Planet Mu), and one of Reaktor’s greatest patching virtuosos on Earth. His first two instruments, THE FINGER and THE MOUTH, were already weird and wonderful tools for performance, but FLESH could be the deepest one yet. (Yes, that’s just Flesh, not The Flesh. So it could be, …
iMaschine, the iOS drum machine, is back in a new version. Now in mini, pocket-able form, you get arrangement and live play features from the desktop edition. For iPhone 6s/6s Plus owners, it also responds to 3D touch. I always keep sketchpads around – literal sketchpads, of the pencil and paper variety. So when software is described as a “sketchpad,” I take that seriously.
Reaktor 6 is a powerful blank canvas that can turn into almost any music tool imaginable. But that much power can be, well, overwhelming. So today, we’re fortunate to have some guides into what that means. Today in Berlin, I’m fortunate to emcee an evening in Berlin featuring both the people who built Reaktor and some top artists finding ways to make music with it. Updated: this event is over but an edited video is coming soon – plus more content/tutorials around Reaktor.
Do you want to buy a keyboard with integrated control for your software? Sure! What if it only controls specific Native Instruments software via pre-defined mappings? Uh… hrm. Now, that offering changes. Native Instruments’ KOMPLETE KONTROL S-series keyboards later this month get some updates that will be essential to improving the value equation – a piano-friendly keyboard, third-party plug-in support, and custom control mappings.
You know the drill. There’s a new operating system from Apple. It breaks some music software. If you don’t like things breaking, you should wait a bit. Then once you’ve verified the stuff you need is compatible, go for it – it’s probably better than the last OS once the wrinkles are ironed out. This post occurs with each new OS, a bit like some sites do Holiday Shopping Guides, or April Fools’ jokes. I could almost turn it into a Mad Libs post. But here are the specifics.
Reaktor Blocks Love Eurorack from listentoaheartbeat on Vimeo. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Can you combine computer software with analog hardware? Can you route control signal from computer software to hardware? Can you combine something accessible with a grid (like a drum machine) with more advanced, open-ended machines with wires? Yes, yes, and yes. Does all modular synthesis stuff sound like indecipherable noodling? Do you have to make a religious decision between analog and digital, hardware and computer? Do all modular setups have to be sprawling rigs that eat up all your money and home? No, no, and no. Make what you …